Ofcom is seeking views on a range of options to ensure UK consumers enjoy the benefits of competition in the home phone, mobile and pay-TV markets.
Earlier this year the telecoms regulator initiated a review of the UK’s digital sectors and has now published a ‘discussion document’ outlining a number of possible changes.
The suggestion most likely to dominate headlines is to force the separation of BT’s Openreach division which manages the UK’s copper and fibre fixed-line network and is used by the majority of phone and internet providers to supply domestic and business customers.
However Ofcom notes such a move would not necessarily improve Openreach’s performance which has recently come under attack both by the regulator and BT’s rivals.
Other options for Openreach set out in today’s document include maintaining the currently regulatory framework which requires it to supply all providers, “applying new rules” and fines for poor performance, and reducing regulation and allow competition between Openreach, Kcom and Virgin Media, which both own their own networks, to drive up standards.
The review could also lead to changes for other companies, including making it easier for customers to switch providers offering bundles of phone, broadband and TV services, and ensuring mobile prices don’t rise due to reduced competition if further mergers in the sector take place.
Sharon White, Ofcom Chief Executive, said: “This review is about ensuring people get the best possible communications services, wherever they live and work.
“Our priorities are clear. We want to promote competition, investment and innovation, so that everyone benefits from even better coverage, choice, price and quality of service in years to come.”
Responding to today’s document, Mai Fyfield, Sky’s Chief Strategy Officer, said: “It is welcome news that Ofcom is putting the future of Openreach at the centre of its review. For too long, consumers and businesses have been suffering because the existing structure does not deliver the innovation, competition and quality of service that they need.
“We believe Ofcom should now move quickly to ask the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to undertake a full competition inquiry. In a rapidly changing sector, it is vital for the UK that the national telecoms network delivers a service fit for the 21st century.”
Consumers and stakeholders can have their say on the discussion document via the Ofcom website.